Softball preview: New Paltz defends title; Highland regroups

New Paltz softball’s (L-R) Jill Harrison, Allie Defoe, Anna McDuffie and Daniela Sackett. (photos by Rich Corozine)

‘Im not sure if New Paltz softball can top last year’s first-ever Section 9 (Class A) title, especially after losing eight starters to graduation, but brand-new coach Brooke Frey — up from JV’s, like lots of her players — certainly will give it a try.

“We lost a lot,” says Frey, acknowledging pitcher Bridget Bennett, catcher Karly Giancola, first baseman Jacora Webb, shortstop Sydney Pece, DH/3B Sarah Rubin, leftfielder Adriana Crimi, centerfielder Ally Pannuto and rightfielder Kate Demski — all lost to graduation, with but four returnees who got playing time last season: sophomore second baseman Anna McDuffie, junior third baseman Allie Defoe — who stepped in big time when Rubin went down early in the season with an ankle injury, junior Jill Harrison — who was the number two pitcher behind Bennett and got some at bats at DH, and junior outfielder Daniela Sackett — who stepped in when Pannuto was out early in the season with a leg injury. Returning infielders/outfielders, juniors Veronica Hill and Katie Finch, had limited playing time last season.


So, outside of her few returnees, Frey — who was a Section 9 All-Star catcher for New Paltz a decade ago — will have to hope that the youngsters she coached the past couple years on JV’s can step in and play well. “They’re young and enthusiastic, working hard, with lots of room for growth,” says Frey. “It’s a big learning curve.”

The young players up from JV’s and that will see lots of playing time are junior 1B/OF Jasmine Queen-O’Connell, junior OF Grace Dixon and five freshmen: catcher JoJo Tansey, third baseman Kate Bennett, shortstop Jordan Giancola, second base/outfield Mena Bonagura and backup pitcher Paige Sarvis.

“Our pitching rotation is Jill at number one and Paige at number two, with Jill showing a fastball, drop and change, and Paige a fastball, drop and curveball…both give different looks and both are consistently over the plate, so I think we’ll be okay with them…but obviously, we lost a lot of offense, so we’ll see how our young players develop.”

Highland softball.

Highland softball, just two years removed from a Section 9 Class B title, last year fell apart, recording their first losing season in 15 years. So the Huskies, as with New Paltz, found themselves with a new coach in Kathelene Canosa — who was also the first-year coach of the girls soccer team.

Canosa has a lot of returnees from last season’s team — losing only starting catcher/SS Michaela Raffaele, who was the last holdover starter from the Section 9 championship team — including junior first baseman Mia Beck, senior pitcher Emily Defini — who missed much of last season with injuries, senior outfielder Taylor Farino, senior outfielder Lucy Long, junior shortstop Mollee Stafford, junior third baseman Sharee Mills, senior outfielder Amanda Dunham and senior catcher Collette Carpenter. Newcomers are sophomore outfielder Isabella Valentino, junior outfielder BiancaRose Piscioneri, senior outfielder Mikayla Schlosser, junior outfielder Kayla Feo, junior outfielder Dakota Wilklow, freshman backup pitcher/infielder Paige Dauenheimer and freshman infielder Ella Cappellino.

“We have two pitchers, with Emily number one. She throws strikes and we can back her up with a solid defense. The girls know how to play; we have a good core of solid players. It’s just how well I can put them together to make a solid team and how well they rebound from last season,” says Canosa.

Well, Highland softball and Canosa couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for the season than Thursday’s 20-4 home-wipeout of O’Neill, with Defini hurling a six inning no-hitter, striking out seven and walking eight. Sharee Mills led the way with 3-for-5, a double, triple and five RBI’s; with Paige Dauenheimer 2-for-3, a double and four RBI’s; and Ella Cappellino 1-for-3, a home run and three RBI’s.

Highland, 1-0, visits Rondout on Wednesday, April 5 at 4 p.m.; New Paltz on Thursday, April 6 at 4 p.m.; and Spackenkill on Friday, April 7 at 4 p.m.

New Paltz opens the 2017 season at Saugerties on Wednesday, April 5 at 4 p.m.,; hosts Highland on Thursday; and is at Rondout on Friday, April 7 at 4 p.m.